Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 7-8 September
As it is said in footballing parlance ‘this was a game of two halves’! The sea conditions were reasonable as we left Heysham and within the first 15 minutes I had five separate sightings, two of Grey Seal and three of Harbour Porpoise. Though the marine mammal sightings did not continue at that pace, by the time we reached Warrenpoint I had four more cetacean sightings of Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise. All in all, not a bad day’s work!
There was a steady stream of the usual birds such as Gannet, auks, and gulls, but early into the survey I spotted a couple of dark coloured birds, and my first thought of these being Great Skua. However, when I got the binoculars on them one had a white neck and the other did have a bit of white on the wing, but not as much as you normally see on a Great Skua. I checked the book thinking possibly juvenile birds, but the book happened to open on Pomarine Skua and the picture was identical to what I had just seen, with one in light form and the other in dark form! This was a first for me as I had not seen this species before.
The following day the conditions were even better with sea state 1 the whole day, and with calm water as far as you could see. The problem was the visibility, where at best you could see two to three kilometres and a lot of the time only 500 metres. Even so when the visibility was at its best there was still a lot of see, and anything that stuck its head above the parapet would easily be seen.
About an hour into the survey something did make three splashes but did not come above the surface, so I was not able to identify it. This remained the only sighting until 15 minutes before the end of the survey when seven Harbour Porpoise came past the ship, shortly to be followed by some Grey Seal.
There were no more unusual birds spotted, but there were large groups of auk sitting around on the water, perhaps not liking the windless conditions and the mist, which made things quite eerie.
Thanks to both captains and crews of the Precision and Point for looking after me so well while I was on board.
Robin Langdon, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Summary of Sightings
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 18
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 96
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 32
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 163
Guillemot Uria aalge 223
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Auk sp. 619
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 128
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 69
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Gull sp. 204
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 2